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Classical Notes

Quartetto Gelato loses a founding member

Posted at 2:57 PM on January 2, 2007 by Don Lee

Word has come from the record label Marquis Classics that oboist Cynthia Steljes of Quartetto Gelato died on Friday. The report says the cause was "mesothelioma, a rare form of asbestos-related lung cancer."

Quartetto Gelato didn't occur to me the other day when I was blogging about the blurred line between classical and other categories of music. The four musicians are indeed a classical crossover act, and they manage to straddle the fence effortlessly. Their secret, I think, is that they keep their feet close together. On one side there might be an arrangement of a melody from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and on the other, an Italian popular favorite such as "O sole mio."

The quartet's unusual configuration of instruments--usually oboe, violin, accordion, and cello--has a way of freshening familiar classical repertoire. On the group's first album, I especially enjoy the subtle substitution of oboe and accordion for the harmonium and one of the violins in Dvorak's Bagatelles.

The group's Web site says services for Cynthia Steljes will be held Thursday in Mississauga, Ontario.

Apparently Quartetto Gelato intends to keep performing; the Web site lists Saturday and Sunday concerts in Columbia, MD. It plans to be in these parts--at the University of Minnesota Morris--on April 21.